Chinese Tech Companies Reportedly Testing New Tool to Circumvent Apple's App Tracking Transparency Rules

Apple plans to begin enforcing its App Tracking Transparency changes following the release of iOS 14.5, and all apps that access an iPhone's ad identifier or IDFA will need to ask a user's permission before tracking is allowed.

nba tracking prompt
According to a new report by the Financial Times, however, the state-backed China Advertising Association (CAA) is testing a tool that could be used to bypass the new Apple privacy rules and allow companies to continue tracking users without their consent.

The new method of tracking users is called CAID, which is said to be undergoing testing by tech companies and advertisers in China. According to the report, TikTok owner ByteDance has already provided its developers with an 11-page guide suggesting that advertisers "use the CAID as a substitute if the user's IDFA is unavailable."

However, the CAA told FT that the tool "does not stand in opposition to Apple's privacy policy" and that the association "is currently actively communicating with Apple," while the CAID solution has not yet been formally implemented.

Apple declined to directly comment on the potential use of CAID to get around its new App Tracking Transparency rules, but told the newspaper that it wouldn't grant any exceptions.

"The App Store terms and guidelines apply equally to all developers around the world, including Apple," the company told FT. "We believe strongly that users should be asked for their permission before being tracked. Apps that are found to disregard the user’s choice will be rejected."

However, two people briefed on the issue told the newspaper that Apple is aware of the tool and seems to have so far turned a blind eye to its use.

Apple is believed to have the capacity to detect which apps use the CAID tool and could block them from its App Store in China, if it wanted to. But such a response could ignite a major confrontation if CAID receives the support of China's technology companies as well as its government agencies.

Three people with knowledge of briefings between Apple and developers also said the Cupertino, California-based company would be wary of taking strong action, despite a clear violation of its stated rules, if CAID has the support of China's tech giants as well as its government agencies.

Rich Bishop, chief executive of AppInChina, a leading publisher of international software in China, suggested that Apple might "make an exception for China" because tech companies and the government are "so closely aligned."

It still remains unclear how the CAID system works, but Beijing-based data privacy company Digital Union believes that the system has been designed with Apple's rules in mind because its tracking methods may not uniquely identify users. "This is the room that the industry has left to explore," the company's co-founder Yang Cong'an told FT, suggesting the grey area was intentional.

CAID is reportedly scheduled to be publicly released as soon as this week, and although the system is intended to be used by local app developers in China, at least one French gaming group is said to have been encouraged to apply to use it and several foreign advertising companies have already applied on behalf of their Chinese divisions.

Note: Due to the political or social nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

Razorpit Avatar
25 months ago
China circumventing privacy rights? Color me shocked.
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Rob_2811 Avatar
25 months ago
Will Tim Cook condemn this like he does Facebook?
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
n0va Avatar
25 months ago
definitely did not expect this. the chinese communist party never fail to surprise me
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
icanhazapple Avatar
25 months ago
This issue is not exclusive to Apple, with respect standing up to China. There are a number of tech companies that could take a similar position, but they have chosen not to.

But only Apple has a $2 trillion market cap/has the cash reserves to lead the charge on this privacy issue. We look to Apple to be better, and they've deferred on standing up to China.

Remember that Apple's dedication to human rights ends where it potentially precludes Apple from taking action on a privacy issue that would upset China to the extent they would restrict the sale of iPhones.

Same is true with encryption of iCloud backups.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
LeadingHeat Avatar
25 months ago
*Facebook and Google engineers furiously writing down notes*
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Rob_2811 Avatar
25 months ago

Probably. Why wouldn't he?
He won't get invited to the next audience with the CCP
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

iOS 16

iOS 16.3 Now Available for Your iPhone With These 4 New Features

Friday February 3, 2023 1:13 pm PST by
Apple released iOS 16.3 in late January following nearly six weeks of beta testing. The software update is available for the iPhone 8 and newer, and while it is a relatively minor update, it still includes a handful of new features, changes, and bug fixes. Below, we've recapped new features in iOS 16.3, including support for physical security keys as a two-factor authentication option for...
ipad air purple

Deals: M1 iPad Air Hits Record-Low Prices at TigerDirect, Starting at $313.99 (48% Off)

Saturday February 4, 2023 10:05 am PST by
Online retailer TigerDirect has slashed pricing on the M1 iPad Air in several colors, offering the base 64GB configuration for just $313.99 in Purple and Pink. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with TigerDirect. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. That's a savings of 48% compared to Apple's normal $599.00...
Apple Silicon Teal Feature

The Next Big Apple Silicon Device May Not Be a Mac or iPad

Wednesday February 1, 2023 3:57 am PST by
Apple's next device with an Apple silicon chip may not be a Mac or an iPad, but rather an advanced external display, according to recent reports. The display, which is rumored to arrive this year, is expected to sit somewhere between the $1,599 Studio Display and the $4,999 Pro Display XDR – but more exact information about the device's positioning and price point is as yet unknown. While ...
iPhone 14 Pro Purple Side Perspective Feature Purple

Gurman: Apple Considering New High-End iPhone Alongside Pro and Pro Max

Sunday February 5, 2023 6:07 am PST by
Apple has discussed selling a new top-of-the-line iPhone alongside the Pro and Pro Max models in 2024 at the earliest, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Based on this timeframe, the device would be part of the iPhone 16 lineup or later. In a September 2022 edition of his weekly "Power On" newsletter, Gurman said there was "potential" for an iPhone 15 Ultra to replace the iPhone 15 Pro...
HomePod 2 White and Midnight Feature Purple Blue

Apple Explains Why HomePod Was Released Again, Wi-Fi 4 Limitation, and More

Thursday February 2, 2023 7:57 am PST by
Apple's VP of hardware engineering Matthew Costello and product marketing employee Alice Chan recently spoke with Men's Journal and TechCrunch about the new second-generation HomePod in wide-ranging interviews about the smart speaker. Apple discontinued the original full-size HomePod in March 2021 after multiple reports indicated that sales of the speaker were lackluster, but Chan told Men's ...
webkit vs chromium feature

Google Working on Browser for iOS That Would Break Apple's App Store Rules

Saturday February 4, 2023 1:30 am PST by
Google's Chromium developers are working on an experimental web browser for iOS that would break Apple's browser engine restrictions, The Register reports. The experimental browser, which is being actively pursued by developers, uses Google's Blink engine. Yet if Google attempted to release it on the App Store, it would not pass Apple's App Review process. Apple's App Store rules dictate...
iOS 16

Apple Preparing iOS 16.3.1 Update for iPhone as Wait for iOS 16.4 Beta Continues

Thursday February 2, 2023 6:41 am PST by
Apple appears to be preparing an iOS 16.3.1 update for the iPhone, based on evidence of the software in our website's analytics logs this week. It's unclear when the update will be released, but it will likely be available at some point in February. The same logs have accurately foreshadowed the release of several previous updates, including iOS 16.0.3 and iOS 16.1.1 most recently, so they...
maxresdefault

Hands-On With Apple's Second-Generation HomePod

Friday February 3, 2023 1:28 pm PST by
Today is the official launch day for the second-generation HomePod that was introduced in January, and we picked one up to compare it to the original HomePod that Apple discontinued in 2021. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Design wise, the second-generation HomePod looks a lot like the first-generation model, featuring the same rounded design and acoustic mesh...